On February 16th at approximately 6:10 PM the Coconino County Sheriff’s Office received a call about an injured skier on the north side of Fremont Peak on a path known as Telemark. The 25-year-old male from Flagstaff had been skiing down the path and fell causing a shoulder injury which made impossible for him to continue to ski down. The group that he was with requested rescue and began to assist him down to the toe of the path where the terrain was less steep.
An Arizona Department of Public Safety Air Rescue helicopter was requested to assist with the rescue, however due to the winds in the Inner Basin of the San Francisco Peaks and the location of the injured party, they were not able to land to conduct the rescue. The Coconino County Sheriff’s Office Search and Rescue team responded to the area and were assisted by an ambulance crew from Guardian Medical Transport. The SAR team and the Guardian Medical crew drove the Sheriff’s Office snowcat to the Lockett Meadow campground in the Interior Valley.
The injured skier and his party were able to make it to the Inner Basin snow study cabins and waited there for rescuers. Due to the snow conditions in the area, the snowcat was not able to make it to the cabins, so a SAR team with the Guardian Medical crew hiked from the Lockett Meadow Campground to the cabins, which were approximately one and a half miles away. Upon arrival at the cabins at approximately 1:30 AM patient care was initiated by Guardian Medical and the SAR team prepared the patient for transport in a litter using a “hypothermia wrap” system to keep him warm and dry during the litter carry to the snowcat. The patient was loaded into the snowcat at approximately 3:30 AM and then transported down to the base of Lockett Meadow Road to be transferred to the ambulance for transport to the Flagstaff Medical Center.
This mission was another example of the close coordination and relationships between Northern Arizona emergency responders. The patient and his party were also well prepared and experienced in backcountry travel which allowed them to adequately manage the emergency until rescuers could arrive. Emergencies that occur in the wilderness areas require that the parties involved be able to manage the situation for an extended period of time as access is often difficult or time consuming. Being prepared for emergencies in the winter backcountry requires the proper clothing and equipment as well as experience using that equipment.